The Strength to Survive: Cancer’s Nothin’ – I Do CrossFit

I love my CrossFit Murdock family. I know the strength and endurance I achieved from the six solid months I was going there saved my life through this journey known as breast cancer.

A note from Mike Tromello of Precision CrossFit: Before many of us take on Crush Cancer this Saturday, I want you all to read Cheryl’s amazing story. This optimizes why we will wear pink every Wednesday this month, and puts this crazy CrossFit stuff into perspective. If you have found yourself needing a sense of motivation or focus, reading this is all you need. CrossFit is more than just a workout regimen, for some people it is a lifesaver.

I love my CrossFit Murdock family. I seriously know that the strength and endurance I achieved from the six solid months I was going there saved my life through this journey also known as breast cancer. I know that without my CrossFit family my recovery would be so much slower.

On July 26, 2013 I got a call I was already prepared for: “Mrs. Stoppiello, You have breast cancer. Please come into the office right away.” I called my husband and we met at the doctor’s office. As the doctor explained my diagnosis, I listened intently as my husband cried next to me. Double mastectomy was going to be my treatment. Not something you really want to hear at the age of 32. I am a woman. My breasts are a part of that label. I came to immediate grips with the seriousness of this journey and the fact that going on and living meant the boobs had to go.

Every doctor who met me was in awe of my positive attitude and my healthy organic life style. I had no family history. I am a massage therapist, an avid CrossFitter, a mom, and a wife. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. I look forward to my deadlifts and box jumps. Cancer was not in my life’s plan.

Telling the people around me was the hardest. I found myself comforting them, instead of them comforting me. My mental state was and is beyond healthy. People around me, including my trainers, treated me differently, though. But I was living with cancer, not dying from it. I pushed through every one of my workouts up until two days of my surgery. The last workout, I literally cried about having to miss what was max lift day. I wanted so badly to know my three-rep max so when I got back I could compare my strength, but the doctor said no “extreme” lifting before surgery for fear of muscle spasms. I was not happy. There is just something so amazing about CrossFit.

cheryl stoppiello, breast cancer, crossfit and cancer, fighting breast cancerThat first day you walk into your CrossFit box, it’s scary. You smell the sweat and everyone around you looks so athletic. You doubt your ability to dive headfirst into some incredible workouts. After about three months I stopped looking up the workout ahead of time, for fear I would be up all night stressing about my proper body mechanics on wall balls in the 6:00am workout.

I became stronger at work, being able to work on more massage clients and not getting tired after three appointments. I began to feel proud of my accomplishments. “I can’t” never came out of my mouth. I always pushed through every workout. Then, this stupid speed bump called cancer came in and tried to take over all those accomplishments. Well, I dug deep, just like I had through those insane workouts, and I pushed through.

I am now only six weeks out from my double mastectomy. My doctors continue to be amazed at my quick recovery. I am constantly hearing from people, “You look great!” or, “You just had a major cancer surgery?” They ask, “How are you getting better so soon?”

I can remember in the hospital, I got up to go to the restroom and the nurse offered me a portable toilet. I told her, “Hell no I’m going to the bathroom.” I used all my bodies’ strength and walked. She was so surprised and made a comment about how she couldn’t believe I got up. As she guided me with my IV trailing closely behind, I turned around and said, “I CrossFit.”

cheryl stoppiello, breast cancer, crossfit and cancer, fighting breast cancerWith the blessing of her encouraging nod of “You go girl,” I did my thang and returned to bed with little assistance. See, when you tell someone you CrossFit, they immediately recognize the hard work you put into your exercise regimen. It takes discipline and drive. It takes fighting through “I can’t” and coming out stronger. It takes pushing yourself to do better.

I love CrossFit. I use my warm-up as my exercise to regain my range of motion that I almost completely lost in my shoulders, as reconstruction happens underneath your pec major and minor muscles. I went from not being able to feed or bathe myself to now being completely independent in almost everything in six weeks. I have drive and determination that I know came from the discipline I gained doing CrossFit. I am not back to my box or my work yet, but I am close. I will have three more surgeries and I plan on succeeding through all of them with the same drive.

Never take your health for granted. You never know when you will need your strength to survive.